September 12th 2012 at 02:35 AM
After reading so much about the Lean Startup Machine (world’s leading workshop on Lean Startup methodologies) I finally had a chance to experience it for myself! (geekgasms) I couldn’t resist the chance to talk to lean mentors and dig into their thought processes!
So I went with a bunch of guys from Cebu!
So what’s wrong with the previous statement? You know when a bunch of guys leave for a trip no one really checks the itinerary while everyone just goes into autopilot mode?Well that’s what exactly happened.
We got lost on our way to the event.
We decided to go straight to the event,we reached Singapore around 4:30 pm and LSM will start at 6:30 pm.
We had printed directions only there was a slight problem. Our map only contained information about how to commute from the airport to the hotel then hotel to the event and back, nothing about going directly to the event from the airport.
We had to asked around the information booths on how to commute to LSM. Being confident that we knew where to go, we took two taxis to fit all 8 of us.
Arriving at the directions on the map I had the feeling that this was the wrong place. It looked like a residential building with clothes hanging from window sills.I told myself this might just be some super indie venue, the organisers might just be hipsters?
Reaching the exact door number there was a sign hanging above it that read children’s music school.Obviously the wrong place, double checking the address on the email we found out that it was really the wrong address.
We had to go around and ask locals where the LSM venue was! It was already 6:00 pm. We were already late. It felt like we were in the amazing race scrambling towards the street to find taxi’s during rush hour.
We finally found the building! It was on a very hip neighbourhood, I could tell by the skatepark outside it had an awesome name too, The Hub.
We arrived just after all the pitches, imagine our confusion when it was time to vote on who’s ideas would make it for the weekend.
Before LSM the we had an agreed that we need to team up with different people to absorb as much information from different teams as we can.
I love how these conferences force me to walk around and talk to complete strangers, the motivation of learning will overwhelm my fear of being socially awkward.
Trolling for a Team
A few minutes of walking around had involved me nervously asking people to do their pitches again. A couple of made up reasons why I couldn’t join different teams later I finally settled on the team that had a very interesting problem space, well for me anyway. It was about matching kids with the right “learning style”.
Short introductions later I found out I was the youngest in the group.Two of my teammates had MBA’s and our leader was the owner of a huge publishing firm in Thailand. I could tell how experienced they were just the way the talked and discussed ideas. I was glad that I had picked this team, I figured they could teach me a whole lot about approaching problem solving.
As soon as we started we hit our first road block. We were dealing with a two sided market.
While trying to fill out our canvas it was hard to choose who we need to write on our customer hypothesis. A long winded discussion about business models followed.
It was getting harder to decide what to write down on this small sticky note we were buried with all of the discussions, we didn’t even get to fill out one box on the validation board. Amazingly a mentor just popped up out of nowhere and was suddenly asking the right questions, we immediately go to focus on which direction we should take.
We started with a persona (phew familiar territory) and narrowed who exactly our hypothesised parents were.
With the help of mentors we finally ended the day with our riskiest assumptions identified.
Started the next morning discussing what the business and research questions were. Also tasted the supposedly best coffee in Singapore at the Hub, it surely didn’t disappoint!
We followed this structure for our questions.
- Approach (ask if they had the time to talk to us)
- Qualifiers (if the fit the customer hypothesis)
- Open-ended questions (Find out needs/goals)
The game plan was to divide the team, one group will interview the students who have tried having a tutor while the other group find parents who are having a hard time getting the right tutor for their children.
Walking around the area we had to ask strangers on the streets if they were willing to give us a few minutes of their time to answer a couple of questions.
It felt like we were a couple of crooks trying to rip off people on the street. As expected we got a whole bunch of rejects. My partner had great observations that just might increase the chances of someone to actually talk to us.
- Look for people who aren’t busy, probably people who aren’t walking too fast
- Don’t block peoples path while approaching them
- If you approach people with a piece of paper in your hands they will think you are selling them something
A few hours later we met back at the Hub to share our research findings. We collected a whole bunch of stories, I was really impressed how on my teammates presented and took very detailed notes, they also emailed us a really great Insights/proof table.
After the synthesising the interviews we were still unsure if we validate/invalidated our riskiest assumption, we never heard the parent explicitly expressing problems with finding the right tutor but the student we interviewed told us they hated their tutoring experience.
We could immediately tell there was a gap between what the parent’s said and what the children actually felt.
Even more GOOBING!
We decided to investigate further by doing more GOOBING! We googled for tutor schools near our area, we found one just a few blocks away and decided to do more interviews.
One of us interviewed a tutor while I stalked more parents.
We found out that the professional tutor we talked to was living the good life! He was happy and content with his profession, clients were constantly rolling in. When we asked him how he decides what to teach his students his answer was simple, ask the student what he wants to learn then he teaches.
Our discussions were now focused around what children wanted in their tutors not what parent’s wanted their tutors to be. We had to pivot our problem hypothesis to parents are having a hard time looking for tutors that fit the personality of their children.
It’s our last day, we had the whole morning to do more GOOBING. Our research goals was to find out if parents were concerned about the personality of the tutors for their children.
After meeting back with the team we were greeted with a talk fromPhil Morlie from Pollenizer, he gave great examples of how they prototyped different ideas to find product/market fit.
He had interesting points on the right mindset when building a start-up
#flearning - fail often, succeed faster
- What have I learned
- What am I planning to learn today
- What’s stopping me from learning
It was presenting time, We presented our major findings! By the wayI was in charge of pressing the next arrow key to forward the slides (yay).
- Concerned parents talk to their children to see how they are doing with the tutor
- Concerned parents were looking to build a relationship with the tutor personalities rather than credentials in the tutors
- They are essentially looking for “Mrs Doubtfire”
We ended up winning the empathy award!
At the end of the it all i’m colossally glad to have had the chance to meet all of these new, interesting people. I believe that the talks we had with mentors and my teammates are worth the price of the plane and event tickets combined.
I will definitely apply what I learned in my personal practice and preach what I learned during the weekend!
Sometimes we are too focused on our solutions that we forget to question our fundamental assumptions that could be business breaking.